Adopt nature to nurture your mental health

5 ways to befriend nature for long-lasting happiness and tranquility.

By Simer Dhume

An unnamed waterfall that Chris Whiton, a nature photographer, stumbled upon in the Rumney-Stinson Lake area of New Hampshire.

Credit | Chris Whiton/White Mountain Images

Source | New York Times

Nature (Prakriti) or the natural world is defined in Sanskrit as consisting of all things unaffected by or predating human technology, production and design. It includes the natural environment, virgin ground, unmodified species, and the laws of nature.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of Harvard’s most celebrated graduates, in his book ‘Nature’ (1836) emphasis on the beauty of nature. He writes, “the simple perception of natural forms is a delight.”  “The sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight in and for themselves.” Nature is valuable and therefore, nature is beautiful. It is alive, moving, reproductive. In nature we observe growth and development in living things, in contrast with the static or deteriorating state of the vast majority of that which is man-made. 

Nature is also intrinsic and intelegent. Therefore, living in harmony with nature has been an integral part of all human civilizations. Our interactions with the beauty of nature can have a profound effect on our social behavior, physical and mental wellbeing. Seeking the outside gateways in return nourishes our inner beings.

Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression as reported in Harvard Health Pubishing. In a 2015 study, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination — defined as repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions.

New Yorkers seen spending time outdoors at Sheep’s Meadow, Central Park, New York

© Hintsof.life

In the New York Times article ‘Bringing the Outside Inside Your Home‘ Bea Pila-Gonzalez, an interior designer in Miami says, “Being in nature drops our cortisol levels, makes us calmer, reduces anxiety and improves our mood.” It’s a physical yearning. We are hungry for the experience of what the outdoors brings to us.

If sheltering indoors in the pandemic has taught us anything it’s the out scaled importance of the outdoors. A 45 minute morning walk in the North Woods in Central Park is the most important part of my everyday routine. It instantly uplifts my mood and gives me an energy boost for the rest of the day. It doesn’t matter anymore if it’s grey and gloomy outside or if the work day is long and hectic. What makes my walks even more special nowadays, is the companionship of my 15 month old daughter.

But sometimes life gets busy, commitments take over or possibly you aren’t much of an outdoor person. Hints Of Life shares 5 effective ways to befriend nature for long-lasting happiness and physiological wellbeing.

brown wood dock

The act of gazing out, looking up at a tree or the gorgeous blue sky or the wide open natural space is soothing and calming.

Credit | Pexel Photos

1. Gazing out: Every morning whilst sipping my tea I look out my window at the beautiful sunrise. Watching the sunrise brings positivity, hope and calmness to my day. It inspires new ideas and enhances my creativity. Sunlight is the purest gold found on earth. It brings beauty and delight to everything it touches.

The act of gazing out, looking up at a tree or the gorgeous blue sky or the wide open natural space is soothing and calming. Spending a few minutes of your day gazing into the natural space has many physiological and psychological benefits. For instance, looking at the natural light is good for your eyes. Breathing the fresh air can improve your blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

While watching the sunrise I practice mindfulness. With my eyes focused on the golden rays, I express gratitude to Sun God for being the source of life on this planet. Giving thanks for enriching my life every day.

Research shows engaging with nature in any form is good for mind and body. It’s a great source of joy and works as an antidepressant.

photo of lupine flowers

Feather like Alpine Betony has somewhat glossy foliage with rose-lavender spikes that bloom on sturdy stems in summer. 

Credit | Pexel Photos

2. Take a walk in the woods/ Forest bathing: Somedays, I like walking in the Ramble at Central Park. The lush woodland composed of 38 acres of winding pathways is my meditative haven. Strolling among its abundant flora and fauna is peaceful. In Spring, listening to the humming of the migratory birds is the best music to my soul. It’s soothing and calming.

On my recent forest bathing walk in the rambe, I hugged a Black Tupelo tree for a few minutes taking-in slow, controled breathes giving thanks for this moment, this opportunity to be in the company of nature. It’s crucial to note ‘Forest bathing is not just for the wilderness-lover; the practice can be as simple as walking in any natural environment and consciously connecting with what’s around you. For a more structured experience, you can join trained guides for a meditative two- to three-hour ecotherapy excursion.

green house full of green plants

Though having a balcony or a patio can be a luxury in the big cities but if you’re lucky to have one it’s the best place for a thriving indoor green space.

Credit | Pexel Photos

3. Bringing nature into your home: The idea that humans are viscerally wired to feel a communion with the natural world, has shifted from a hypothesis espoused by the biologist Edward O. Wilson and others to the emergence of urban beekeeping, increasingly diverse city gardens and wild ideas for residences and workplaces, says author Sally Coulthard, an interior designer and writer based in North Yorkshire, England.

Creating green spaces in our home is remedial, it is proven to have both psychological and physical impact on our lives and day to day activities. Here are a few ideas to bring nature into your home. Living in a small apartment in the city, I love bringing home fresh flowers every morning from the supermarket. As the fragrance fills the apartment it nourishes my soul and help me start my day on a positive note. Here are a few creative ideas to bring nature into your home.

a) Balcony

Though having a balcony or a patio can be a luxury in the big cities but if you’re lucky to have one it’s the best place for a thriving indoor green space.

Your balcony is a space with enough light and ventilation, making it easier for plants to thrive. Adding in a lot of plants along with your coffee table and easy chairs makes it a place you’d want to spend most of your time on. With glazed doors you could make your balcony visible to other parts of your home, which will make them look like a ‘functional green décor.

b) Fill the indoors with house plants

House plants are possibly the easiest way of bringing nature into your home. Ferns, succulents, cacti, orchids, aloes and many other plants and flowers thrive indoors with some attention, enabling you to breathe life into any room.

In addition to being an attractive form of decoration, house plants also have a positive effect on your health because they help reduce stress and anxiety while removing toxins from the air you breathe.

c) Add a splendid nature wall mural

Wall murals instantly transform your space allowing you to create an eye-catching feature wall in any room. Nature-themed wall murals are available in a huge selection in different categories. You might choose photographs of trees and forests, flowers, mountains, wildlife, or the ocean.

A really fun alternative is to use your favorite nature photograph and create a custom design. Then, paint the rest of your room with matching earth tones to create a finished look for your natural theme.

d) Grow healthy herbs in your kitchen

Using delicious homegrown herbs and spices in your cooking improves your meals nutritionally, but that’s not all. They are also a unique and attractive feature in your kitchen when displayed properly. Moreover, they also spread lovely aromas throughout the room.

Add shallow shelves to a bare wall in your kitchen or several potted containers on a counter to grow and display your herbs for a great feature piece. Or, for convenience and interest, place herb plants in between your wine in a sunken rack.

e) Make the most out of natural light

Natural light in your home is an excellent way to create a bright and cheerful atmosphere. While natural light is plentiful during the warmer seasons, it is especially important to bring natural light into your home during the darker, colder weather as well.

To make the most out of your natural lighting, here are a few easy DIY tips:

  1. Keep your windows clean and bright and pull the drapes open every morning.
  2. Place mirrors strategically around your home to reflect the natural light around the entire room.
  3. Pull your furniture out and away from windows to allow them to shine through with the greatest amount of light.
pathway between tomato fruits

We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.Jenny Uglow

Credit | Pexel Photos

4. Gardening: If you are an avid gardener or garden lover you would relate when I say, gardening is therapy. The assessment might be truer than you think. Gardening improves physical health and produces nutritious homegrown goodies, but its therapeutic benefits extend beyond that. From relaxation and stress relief to formal therapist-directed programs, mental and emotional wellbeing get welcome boosts along the garden path.

Interacting with nature, even in the simple act of viewing trees or visiting garden-like settings can have dramatic therapeutic effect on ones wellbeing. My biggest stress-buster is visiting the Conservatory Garden in Central Park. Breathing the sweet fragrance of dozens and dozens of flowers year round is a bliss that I cherish deeply and wholeheartedly.

How to Get Started?

Ready to start a garden of your own? Here are six easy steps for beginners.

  • Just start– The best way to do this is to get started, even though you don’t know how it’s going to go or exactly what you’re doing. The worst that will happen is you’ll learn something. And that’s worth the price of a plant, every time.
  • Start slow-Though it’s easy to get excited when starting out and plant too much, which ends up being hard to keep up with. As a result, you could end up feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. So get started, but don’t overdo it. You can always add new plants to your garden over time. A simple first step is to grow something in a container that you can put close to your house, so it’s easy to take care of and enjoy seeing every day.
  • Focus on healthy soil. Successful gardening starts literally from the ground up, recommends Psychology Today, in the article “10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening.” Soil is life. When you focus on that, good things happen.” Gardeners must strive to avoid synthetic chemicals and feed the soil with organic compost, like shredded leaves, shredded bark, or aged manure.
  • Grow what you like. Choose fruits and vegetables that you would like to eat or plants that you like looking at. Grow something that’s easy and that grows quickly, like a radish or lettuce or seasonal flowers. The ease and quick reward will be motivating to stick with it.
  • Know your plants needs. Research well in advance about the plant before you stick it in the ground. Knowledge is power. Read the plant tag so you know if it likes sun or shade and wet or dry, and do your best to give it the environment it wants to thrive in. After all, plants can’t move themselves, so it’s up to us to. Put the right plant in the right place. Your plants will reward you for it.
  • Pay attention to your plants. Spend at least a little time in your garden every day observing what’s happening. That way you can be proactive when problems arise and can circumvent potentially bigger problems. Besides, spending time in your garden is the best remedy for stress and other physical and mental illnesses. It can also be a great cardiovascular workout as you shovel, walk in your garden and tend to the your plants.
food vegetables people woman

Nurturing and taking care of your plants can help you face challenging personal circumstances beyond your control that negatively affect physical and emotional health.

Credit | Pexel Photos

5. Nurturing and taking care of your plants– Like outdoor garden settings, viewing green plants in indoor living spaces can perk up your spirits and your sense of wellbeing. But the benefits of caring for a living plant, even a single houseplant, transcend green views. Studies show that caring for a plant has particular value for people facing challenging personal circumstances beyond their control that negatively affect physical and emotional health.

In one study, published in Gardentech.com, elderly assisted-living residents received a four-week class on indoor plant care and were given responsibility for a plant. Compared with non-gardening residents, the indoor gardeners had significantly higher self-ratings of health, happiness and quality of life. The staff also noted the gardeners required less staff care, were more alert and social, and took greater responsibility for their actions and choices. Indoor gardening has also been shown to reduce agitation and improve sleep and awareness in dementia patients. Feeling needed and in control of a plant’s wellbeing improve the caretaker’s wellbeing, too.

Source:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature

https://www.gardentech.com/blog/gardening-and-healthy-living/get-your-therapy-in-the-garden

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/think-act-be/201906/10-mental-health-benefits-gardening

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